- Researchers at Yale Medical School have successfully returned some functions of swine brain that were dead for hours.
- They hope that technology will improve our understanding of the brain, potentially develop new treatments for diseases and disorders.
- The research puts many ethical issues and tests our present understanding of death.
The image of the unbridled brain that returns to live again is a matter of scientific fantasy. Not just any science fiction, especially B-sci fi. What immediately comes to mind are black and white horrors like movies Fiend facial, Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that is, for some reason, too tricky?
But, like any good science fiction, it's just a matter of time when some of them break into our reality. This week Nature published findings from researchers who have been able to restore function to the bone brains that were clinically dead. At least what we once thought was dead.
It seems that what's dead may never die
Researchers did not come from the house of Greyjoy – "What's dead might never die" – but it came mostly from the Yale Medical School. They linked 32 brain stools with a system called the Brainex, Mozakex is a system of artificial perfusion – a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the body. Pigs were killed four hours earlier in the slaughterhouse of the US Department of Agriculture; their brains are completely removed from the skull.
Brainex pump the experimental solution into a brain that essentially mimics blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients into the tissues, giving the cells brain resources to start many normal functions. Stations have begun to consume and metabolize sugars. The immune system of the brain has started to work. Neural patterns can carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells also reacted to drugs.
Researchers have managed to keep the brain alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if Brain isex can keep the brain longer. "It can be imagined that we just stop inevitably, and the brain will not be able to recover," said Nenad Šestan, neurologist Jale and lead researcher.
As a check, other brains were either getting fake solutions or not at all having a solution. No one has revived brain activity and worsened normally.
Researchers hope that technology can improve our ability to study brain and its cellular functions. One of the main ways of doing such research would be brain and illness disorders. This could point to the development of new methods of treating brain injury, Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's and neurodegenerative conditions.
"This is a remarkable and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for human brain research, which is extremely important given the enormous amount of people who suffer from an illness [and] Nita Farahany, bioethics at the Duke University School of Law, who wrote a commentary on the study, said National Geographic.
Ethical gray matter
Before someone gets it Island Dr. Moreau Vibe, it is worth noting that the brain has not come close to neuronal activity close to consciousness.
Brainex the solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons. To be especially careful, the researchers also monitored the brain for any such activity and were prepared to apply the anesthetic if they saw signs of consciousness.
Even so, the research signals a great debate on medical ethics and our definition of death.
Most countries, clinically speaking, define death as irreversible brain loss or circulatory function. This definition was already in conflict with some folklore and value-oriented notions, but where do we go if it is possible to replace clinical death with artificial perfusion?
"This is wild," said Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist from the University of Pennsylvania New York Times, "If ever there was a question that deserved a great public consideration of the ethics of science and medicine, that is one."
One of the possible consequences is donation of organs. Some European countries require emergency responders to use the process that keeps organs when they can not revive the person. They still pump blood across the body, but use a "thoracic occlusal balloon" to prevent blood from reaching the brain.
The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about the cause of the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes easily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist from the Case Western Reserve University, told Nature yes if the brainex become available, could reduce the number of eligible donors.
"There is a potential conflict between the interests of potential donors – perhaps even donors – and people waiting for organs," he said.
It will take some time before such experiments come close to human subjects. The closer the ethical question relates to the way in which such experiments harm the animals.
The ethics review boards evaluate research protocols and may reject any one that causes unnecessary pain, suffering or distress. Since dead animals do not feel pain, they are not suffering any trauma, they usually approve themselves as subjects. But how do such commissions make a judgment about the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The upset of a partially live brain?
The dilemma is unprecedented.
Setting new limits
Another science fiction story that comes to mind when we discuss this story is, of course, FrankensteinAs Farahany said National Geographic: "That's definite [sic] it is a good science-fantasy element and returns cellular function where we previously thought it impossible. But have it Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some "there" [The researchers] there was no form of awareness in this study, and it is still not clear whether we could ever. But we are closer to that opportunity. "
She's right. Researchers have conducted research to improve mankind, and one day we can get some unimaginable medical benefits out of it. However, ethical issues remain as disturbing as the stories they remind us of.